No Installation ID when you try to activate Windows-XP

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No Installation ID when you try to activate Windows-XP
Why can't I activate Windows XP?
Summary: I tried to activate Windows XP Home and it didn't work. Thus began a phone saga with Microsoft support, ending in
failure. Until I fixed it myself.
I'm trying to activate Windows XP Home. I've just performed a clean setup, and Windows now won't let me even login until I
activate. The network card has apparently not yet been configured, so I can't activate over the intgernet. When I do the phone
activation, the "installation ID" I'm supposed to give the Microsoft representative is blank so that doesn't wotrk either. What do I do?
To reinstall windows XP (or Vista or Server 2003/2008) you MUST use the CORRECT CD for the product key to work - The correct
CD is the same product, same type (OEM/RETAIL/VOLUME LICENSE), same service pack and same patch level. It appears that a
XP-SP2 CD in NOT just a XP-SP2 CD. It could be an OEM, Retail or Volume License version. It could also be XP-SP2, XP-SP2a, XPSP2b or XP-SP2c CD. The product key for a CD MUST match the CD that you use it with.
You can't use a XP-SP2b CD with a XP-SP2c product key and if you do then you get the problems mentioned in this article.
You can't use a XP, XP-SP1 or XP-SP3 CD either. You can't tell what patch level an XP product key is (or even what service pack
it is) but if you ring Microsoft THEY can look it up and tell you.
You also can't tell what patch level a CD is (you can tell what service pack it is because THAT is written on the CD) but the patch
level is described in the part number on the BACK of the CD etched around the centre of the CD. YOU can't tell what patch level it
is but if you ring Microsoft THEY can look it up and tell you.
I have a Dell Latitude 131L that's perhaps two years old. It came with Windows XP Home pre-loaded from Dell. I'd loaned the
machine to a friend for a while who'd recently returned it. I used it as a testbed and installed Ubuntu Linux on it, played with it for a
bit, and then left it to sit in a corner.
Today I decided that this was the machine to use for a new employee at my wife's business. So, time to reformat and reinstall.
Now, here is the only confusing factor: the machine is a Dell, and came with Dells OEM version of Windows XP Home pre-installed.
The product key for XP Home that was installed on it is on a sticker on the bottom of the laptop. Like so many of my readers I'd lost,
misplaced, or just didn't feel like looking for the actual Dell Windows XP Home disk, particularly since I had a old pre-SP1 retail disk
(purchased from the Microsoft Company Store) in front of me that I'd never used.
The product key for one CD of Windows XP Home should work with any other - remember, it's the product key you're purchasing,
not just a CD. If not, I expected it would at least generate an error when I entered it. So when I installed Windows I entered the
original Dell product key, even though I was installing a retail copy of XP Home.
The thing is, it worked. Or at least it seemed to. Windows Setup dutifully accepted the product key, reformatted the entire hard
drive as I requested and copied over files from the CD. It just generally seemed to be working, and working well.
"I'm sure that most of the time it works. But ... Oh. My. God."
Until it rebooted and hung. (Still no idea what that was about.)
I removed the CD, and hard-booted the machine, and sure enough, Windows came up except that it presented me with a message
I'd never seen before, and didn't even know existed: "You must first activate this copy of Windows before you can log in". This
was new. In my experience Windows will normally allow you to login and complete your set up without activating, giving you 30
days to get around to that.
OK, whatever, I decided to activate. The choices came up, I plugged in a network cable and told the Windows to activate itself
over the net. No. The network card hadn't been configured yet, there was no external connectivity available. The only option was
to activate Windows over the phone.
I hesitated, but having advised so many people in the past that phone activation is no big deal, I decided to live by my own words,
and picked up the phone.
I'm sure that most of the time it works. But ... Oh. My. God. Here's the highly edited sequence:
I call the activation number, which is of course automated. It asked me to type in the "installation ID" that should be displayed on my
screen at this point. The problem was that it wasn't there:
The automated phone system had no clue how to handle that.
I was given the option to ask for "help" where I was routed to a real person. A real person who also had no idea what to do, and
directed me to Microsoft technical support.
I called tech support, and was treated to a long list of "pay per incident" support options, until at the last minute I could dial "0" to
speak to technical support representative.
The initial support rep, who acts as a kind of gate keeper and call router, took a bunch of my information, listened to my problem
and put me on hold. After 10-15 minutes he came back and indicated that I needed to speak to a technical support agent. He gave
me a "Service Request" (SR) number, and then transferred me.
The next technical support person had me try stuff. In fact, I'll even go so far as to say "the usual stuff" most of which I'd already
tried; rebooting, re-entering the product key and so on. The fact that at this point there were few options didn't stop us from trying.
And, of course, the questions: where'd I buy this copy, what kind of computer, and more.
Nothing we did changed anything. No "installation ID".
One of the interesting steps he had me try was to reboot in safe mode (but NOT Safe mode with networking). It turns out that in
safe mode you don't have to activate first - you can get right into Windows. (Complete with the "you have 30 days to activate" pop
up). He had me install some random .inf file (oobe.inf - apparently the "Out Of Box Experience" application) which installed a few
more things from CD. After a reboot nothing had changed.
At this point I'm about 45 minutes into it and probably would have given up had I not begun envisioning this article resulting from my
experience. Any normal person would have throw up their hands at this point, I'm certain.
I persevered.
I was put on hold several times while the tech researched the issue.
I had been fairly clear about what I was doing, but at one point I was very explicit that I was using the Dell OEM Windows XP Home
product key to install the Retail Windows XP Home CD. (In honesty, I was kind of expecting that to be the issue.) The tech grabbed
on to that and said, of course, that wouldn't work. So we tried the product key that was included on the Windows XP Home retail
disk. No luck. Same error.
The tech finally decided that getting me a new product key was the thing to do. But that meant transferring me, again, to a different
He stayed on the line while that happened, and I got a new key. No joy. Same error.
That's when the tech pretty much gave up, saying that he'd tried all the options. There must be something wrong with my CD, and I
should probably take it back to where I'd purchased it, and replace it.
That's where I pretty much gave up as well, having spent some 90 minutes with Microsoft attempting to tackle this problem. We
closed the issue as "unresolved".
To their credit everyone I talked to was polite and honestly intent on getting whatever issue was in front of them resolved. (I, too,
took pains to remain calm and friendly throughout. Tempting as it is, anger rarely helps.)
And I also have to point out that I totally get that remote debugging is incredibly difficult. I know, I try to do it every day answering
questions here. It's hard. But that's exactly what we expect technical support specialists to be good at.
The problem was that ultimately, they had no clue. They were just fishing for answers. And as a result they wasted an hour and a
half (and more) of my life in the process.
Very disappointing. And frustrating. I can understand that a less patient person would have had a difficult time staying civil - what I
was looking for was very simple: I wanted to install and run Microsoft Windows, all legal and above board.
And I simply couldn't.
How to Fix It
Left to my own devices, I fixed it in about 10 minutes. And that, to me, is the truly shameful part.
The key was my statement early on: "The network card hadn't been configured yet, there was no external connectivity available."
That's a statement I made repeatedly to the folks at Microsoft. The other key was noticing that I could get into the computer by
using Safe Mode (but NOT safe mode with networking). My approach was very simple: get the network working, and then see if I
could activate that way
I downloaded network drivers for this model of laptop from Dell, and using a DVD-RW, copied them on to the laptop, which I had
rebooted into safe mode. The setup programs for the drivers didn't work - apparently the Windows Installer is disabled in safe
mode. However the driver files were available.
I went to the network device in device manager (it had the familiar yellow question mark that indicated there was a problem)
clicked "update driver", pointed it to the folder containing the drivers for Windows XP for this laptop's network card, and installed.
Then I rebooted. I didn't reboot into safe mode, just plain old default regular Windows. And directly into Windows I went. No "you
must first activate before you can login", just directly into Windows. And yes, once there I saw the expected "you have 30 days to
activate" pop up. And the network worked. As did activation.
Here's my theory:
A machine without connectivity of any sort is a problem. If Windows Setup can't determine that there's a way to connect to the
internet ever (i.e. there's no network adapter of any kind - even though I had networking hardware, Windows didn't see it, as
evidenced by the lack of drivers having been installed on setup), it seems like it drops back to this ultra "secure" mode where you
must activate before you can even use your machine.
I also theorize that since the "installation ID" is actually comprised of information about the system, like its network adapter's MAC
or other serial number, the lack of that network adapter caused it problems too. It was unable (or perhaps unwilling) to calculate
the installation ID that was necessary for me to activate by phone.
A classic catch-22: I needed to activate by phone because I didn't have a network card to activate over the net, and I couldn't
activate by phone because I didn't have a network card to generate the required ID. I could, of course, be wrong, but that's what it
"feels" like.
Two conclusions:
Since this is an older CD of Windows XP Home, I'm hoping that if it is a bug in Windows Setup and installation, that it's been fixed in
more recent releases.
Regardless, Microsoft support should have known about this behavior, and there should have been a better solution offered other
than "get a new CD". (Which, in hindsight, would not have solved the problem.). Even though I worked there for so many years,
and in part because I worked there for so many years, I take great care not to come across as some kind of Microsoft fanboy.
While the preceding certainly wouldn't be mistaken for that, I know some think I cut Microsoft more slack than they deserve.
I can't say what they "deserve", but I can say that my experience was very disappointing, and that I have a lot more sympathy for
folks who have had to go through similar scenarios, without the fall back of being able to just get things to work themselves.
Related Info
How do I reformat my machine if I don't have a Windows CD?
Will reinstalling Windows too often trip up Windows Product Activation?
So why don't I run Linux?
Microsoft: Windows XP Product Activation
Microsoft: Product Activation FAQ - surprisingly complete coverage of common WPA questions.
When you try to activate Windows it says it's already activated
Try the following:
Reboot your computer into "Safe Mode".
Go to Start > Run and type: %systemroot%\system32 then press the Enter key.
Locate these two files: wpa.dbl and wpa.bak
Rename the wpa.dbl file to wpaold.dbl and wpa.bak to wpaold.bak
Reboot your computer into Normal Mode. This will force activation on the following boot. Sometimes if those files get
corrupted, they can cause this type of problem.
If the above procedure does not solve the problem, then try Microsoft's guided help to remove the script that interferes with
Windows activation:
I have had this same issue. First obtain a copy of win XP service pack 3, either from a friends computer (that has DSL or cable
connection and a CD burner) Try loading your computer in safe mode by pressing F8 when the computer first starts up, Next
Choose SAFE MODE then logon to the machine. Choose your CD rom drive letter and the file that contains Service Pack 3. Then
simply run the file. When prompted click NEXT.... then FINISH.... your computer will reboot and voila .... no more endless loop.
I had this problem. I found the network was ok but the sound card driver was not installed. I installed it in safe mode and rebooted.
Then it once again told me I had to activate it. This time it still would not do it over the internet but the phone worked. But after I
rebooted I get the "need to activate" again. If I click yes I get a message that the computer is already activated. I get caught in a
loop. I went to MS and ran through their fix. No good. I gave up. I am now re-formating and will try once again to install. If this
doesn't work I may go visit the MAC store.
I just had the same crap of this activation stuff, and the loop after doing the network driver fix and online activation. Question :
when you installed XP, was your LAN cable plugged in or not? Mine was the 1st time. Now its out.... maybe it makes a difference
Updated: Problem solved. Unplugging the network cable, as per earlier post. And also, I used another XP OEM CD. Both CD's are
original as bought in the package disks. Somehow I think Leo has a point, the network drivers / Active LAN has something to do
with this. In my case: on a G31M Gigabyte mobo.
Certainly a LAN Card CAN have something to do with the missing Activation ID problem, however as a system builder, it is unusual
for us to try and register Windows before we install the drivers anyway and virtually all the time, that works. The missing link here
is finding out what triggers the immediate activation screen on startup, rather than the usual 30 days. It does happen with
mismatched versions of Windows and Product Keys, multiple activations for the same number and problems reading the Windows
CD. The most annoying part of this is that the legitimate owners and repairers get the problem and the pirates get cheats that do
not suffer the same fates. Microsoft needs a better plan.
Thank you Leo for your article, it certainly assisted me as one of the posters had my solution, a different legitimate CD. My WinXP
Pro SP2 CD with its Product Key had the fault, yet a new WinXP Pro SP3 CD with my Win XP Pro SP2 Product Key didn't. That
stops piracy?
Found a perfect way past this problem as I had repaired a PC for a neighbour whose installation of windows on her laptop
became corrupted.
The usual fixboot / fixmbr all failed to work but she needed to keep the info and files that she had on her laptop so a full installation
was out of the question so did a repair install of windows which went ok apart from 1 lock up.
Was then met with the you must acticate windows before you can log on.....
as per the most of you i could not connect as the drivers for the ethernet or wireless were yet installed,
so i used the tip from this site and it works 100%
I had exactly the same problem. Found Leo's advice and tried manual install of netcard-drivers. This allowed me manual activation
by phone, but the result was the evil logon/activation loop: "you must activate before logon/XP already activated/you must
activate.. "
Microsoft of course went directly into parrot-mode: try reinstalling, try reinstalling, try ....
The Windows-repair method didn't work - the unplug-the-network-cable didn't work - the try-another-legit-cd-method didn't work
and the how-to-login-to-expired-windows method didn't work (the Narrator utility only exists in english language XP).
At the end, I found out that the solution was exactly the same as mentioned in the article by Barry at May 19, 2008 7:22 AM:
1. When you install don't add a password for the administrator-account when asked - leave blank.
2. Don't name the machine just accept the default name that is in the box.
That did the trick. For the first time I wasn't forced to activate before I could log in, and I could happily install network- and other
drivers and activate XP by the internet.
Thanks Leo. This worked even on XP Prof with SP2. I also added an administrator password for the first time and got this problem
for the first time.
would you believe i had same problem today. Thanks to you I put old network card in and it went online and activated in seconds...
Thanks, you saved me an afternoon.
I was given an HP a6500f desktop that was reloaded with XP Pro but never activated. It had been sitting in a closet for over 60
days, hence the forced activation. Booted into Safe Mode, loaded the NIC driver and was off and running.
For next time, you can avoid ALL of what you wrote about. I have had success with following the tip below, which I made note of
from PC Magazine (11/5/02 issue):
"Don't reactivate after reinstalling. If you reinstall Windows XP, you normally have to reativate it, but there's a way around
reactivation. Windows XP maintains the activation information in the file 'Wpa.dbl,' which you'll find in the Windows\System32
folder. After you activate, and any time you add hardware to your system, back up the file to another disk. If you need to reinstall
Windows XP for any reason, go through the installation routine, then copy the latest version of Wpa.dbl to the Windows\system32
As a result of this tip, I've made it a practice to back up this file whenever I make a hardware change on each Windows XP
computer I have (or work with, such as my wife's & children's). Unfortunately, I understand that Vista doesn't allow this easy step
to avoid reactivation.
Anyhow, if you have a message that you need to activate and you cannot login,
You can get around it, just look around try F1 for help, find any link that will open Internet Explorer. and with internet explorer you
just launch explorer.exe and work with the PC for ever, just keep the windows with activation open, closing this window will end
your session.
I've learned three things.
1. Microsoft is no help with this problem except to waste about an hour and a half making you reboot, read numbers, edit the
registry, boot to safe mode, get numbers off the center of the install disk, make you change the product key, transfer you to
someone else who will go through the same stuff and still not fix the problem.
2. When you install don't add a password when asked - leave blank.
3. Don't name the machine just accept the default name that is in the box.
This allows it to boot to the point that you can add drivers. It will begin to ask you to activate incessantly, but wait until you have all
the drivers THEN activate over the net.
Microsoft has a neat little way to prevent software piracy of their Windows operating system. "Windows Genuine Advantage"[I
stand corrected, it has nothing to do with WGA] with its "Product Activation" requirement. Essentially, even with a valid product
key, you still need to activate your Windows to ensure that only one computer is using that specific product key. If you can't
activate your Windows, there being many reasons for this, you are left with a 30 day grace period to change your product key to
one that is fully valid or get in contact with Microsoft and plead your case.
Once your grace period is up, Windows refuses to let you login anymore. You cannot access your files. You cannot go on the
Internet. You cannot do anything, except the thrill of trying to activate Windows.
Well, luckily for me I do not have to worry about this issues, as my Windows is valid and activated. However, for those who do
not and have been so unfortunate enough to have their Windows expire on them, I present to you a bit of relief. How to gain
access to your files on an expired Windows, with even enough functionality to surf the web, talk on MSN Messenger, and load up
most of your applications. It doesn't give you full functionality of Windows, but it will be enough to get the job done until you can
find the time to activate your Windows. Best of all though, it's all very simple and easy to do!!!
1. First, turn on your computer and wait until you get to the Windows login screen.
2. Next, click to login as usual. You should get an error from Windows telling you that your Windows has expired and is
asking whether you would like to activate Windows now - Click Yes.
3. A "Let's activate Windows" window will appear. Let's minimize it. DO NOT close it.
4. Now, hold down the Windows Key on your keyboard while you also press the "U" key. This will open up the Narrator
program to help assist those with poor vision.
5. Click the little computer icon in the top left hand side of the Narrator window. A drop down menu should appear.
6. The last option in this menu is named "About Narrator...". Click it. This should open up another window called "About
7. In this window, there should be the text "Microsoft Web site". Click it, as it is a link and will open up your Internet Explorer,
taking you to the Microsoft Accessibility website.
8. As if Internet was not enough, in the address bar of Internet Explorer, type "c:\". This should display all your hard drive
contents on drive "C". From there you can load navigate your way around your computer, loading specific programs, and
most whatever else.
Some common directories as to where you can find personal files and programs are:
C:\program files\
C:\documents and settings\username\Desktop\
C:\documents and settings\username\Documents\
C:\documents and settings\username\Start Menu\Programs\
On a side note, certain programs cannot be opened while Windows is still not activated. You will also not have a Task Bar at the
bottom of your screen (well it MAY be there but you can't use it), as trying to open it will just result in it shutting itself down a few
moments later. MSN Messenger works though, as well as most other non-Windows-based components.
Disclaimer: I do not applaud piracy, but I do feel people should have access to their personal files, regardless of whether
Windows has expired or not. This tutorial should not be used to bypass Windows Activation, nor does it restore full Windows
functionality, but I provide it to those who are in desperate need of accessing files that are suddenly lost to them through the
Microsoft Genuine Advantage activation system.
[Update: some say it works even better with Vista, as the explorer.exe does not close shortly after you try to open it as it does in
XP. Unconfirmed.]
I have a solution. i realize that your last post was a month ago... but if you still need help just do the following:
1. boot up your computer into safe mode.
2. go into the C:\WINDOWS\system32 folder and locate the file: wpabaln.exe. (the icon looks like a pair of keys.) This is the
program that tells windows that it needs to be activated and this is the program that you need to delete. The problem is,
everytime you delete it it will regenerate itself. So what you have to do is delete it and then extremely quickly you have to
turn off your computer using the power button. (don't just shut it down, actually turn it off)
3. check to see if it is deleted and if not, then try again.
4. once its deleted, the message that tells you to activate windows should be gone for good.
good luck!
Go to start/run, and type
1. regsvr32.exe regwizc.dll
2. OK, then,
3. regsvr32.exe licdll.dll
If that doesn't do it, deactivate your machine and then reactivate it.
1. Go to Start > Run, and type:
2. %systemroot%\system32\oobe\msoobe.exe /a
If that doesn't work, then run regedit, navigate to:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\wpaevents
and change any single number in OOBEtimer in the right pane. Close regedit and try the command in the Run box again.
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